restricted access Shimmering Reality: The Question of Metaphysical Relativity in Mystical Theology

How can the Absolute conceivably be side by side with the existence of “non-absolute” realities given that such a “co-existence” would perforce imply some sort of “relationality” between the former and the latter, and thereby run contrary to the notion of an unconditionally free and necessary ab-solutum? This is the main question pondered in this essay through a liminal survey of some of the most rigorous concepts of the Absolute provided by a cross-religious spectrum of metaphysical teachings that include Śaṅkara’s Advaita, Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka, Kashmiri Śaivism, and the Sufi school of “Unity of Being” (wahdat al-wujūd). Śan. kara provides a fitting starting point for this analysis of the ontological status of “other-than-the-Ultimate” when characterizing Māyā as “neither real nor unreal” in his Crest Jewel of Discrimination. These perplexing words will be used as keys to argue that wisdom and mystical traditions tend to assign an ambiguous ontological status to phenomenal realities. Furthermore, it is proposed here to show that each of these traditions does emphasize one of the two aforesaid characterizations in its approach to the mystery of universal metaphysical relativity, or universal existence: neither “being” (or real) nor “nonbeing” (or unreal).